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An event to define the scope and possible solutions to Wichita's long-term water challenges.


Examining Wichita's Water Future
An event to define the scope and possible solutions to Wichita's long-term water challenges.
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 16:07:44 +0000
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“'We’re just trying to get all of these different perspectives in the same room and not in a debate format. We want to talk about if there is a problem, what is the scope of the problem and what are some possible solutions,'” said James Franko, vice president and policy director for KPI."

http://www.kansas.com/2014/07/15/3553660/community-forum-planned-on-future.html#storylink=cpy

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER: http://kansaspolicy.org/events/118507.aspx?view=c


Community forum planned on future of Wichita’s water | Wichita Eagle
www.kansas.com
The Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative Wichita nonprofit organization, is hosting a community forum about Wichita’s water future from 8 a.m. to noon on Thursday at the Wichita State Metropolitan Complex, Room 132, according to a news release.
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 16:00:24 +0000
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What are the solutions to Wichita's water challenges? Next Thursday in Wichita attend a free event to find out. Wichita city officials, Kansas Water Office, and other experts discuss.

http://kansaspolicy.org/Events/118507.aspx?view=c


Wichita Water Conference
www.kansaspolicy.org
State experts, the City of Wichita, and local leaders will gather to explore scope of Wichita's water needs and possible solutions. Confirmed speakers: Kansas Water Office, City Councilman Pete Meitzner, Wichita Dir. of Public Works Alan King,
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:22:06 +0000
Last Refreshed 7/24/2014 6:00:59 AM
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Posted by Dave Trabert on Friday, March 23, 2012
Today’s Lawrence Journal-World had another ‘sky-will-fall’ story warning of economic catastrophe that would accompany tax reform in Kansas.  “Study says lower state income taxes will lead to higher property, sales taxes” is based on a ‘study’ by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) based in Washington, DC.  

New York Times reporter Matt Bai says the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) is funded by the Democracy Alliance.   According to Bai's account, representatives of CBPP attended a May 2006 meeting of the Democracy Alliance to "talk about the agendas they were busy crafting that would catapult Democratic politics into the economic future."  

It's quite telling that the left-leaning Lawrence Journal-World calls this organization 'non-partisan' but consistently labels free market- oriented organizations as 'conservative'.  

The CBPP study's conclusion is based on nothing more than an assumption: "the state will likely find itself both raising other taxes on middle- and low-income families and making massive cuts to vital services that will badly damage the state’s economy."

This is the classic 'either/or' ultimatum that governments typically give taxpayers...either pay higher taxes or surrender some service you want. In other words, give us what we want or pay the price. Instead, governments should examine every program for effectiveness and efficiency, always looking for ways to maintain essential services at the most cost-effective manner. States with lower tax burdens have far greater job growth and wage & salary disbursements; their private sector GDP dwarfs high burden states. They gain population from people choosing to move from other states while the high burden states (including Kansas) lose population from domestic migration.

The key to having a low tax burden is to control spending, and that's exactly what low burden states and those with no income tax do. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, states with no income tax spent $2,444 per resident in 2010 while the rest of the country averaged $3,572 or 46% more. Kansas spent $3,216 per resident and would have saved $2.2 billion by spending at the rate of states with no income tax.

Tax reform is about job creation and economic growth. The CBPP 'study' is about justifying the continuation of policies that have fed the growth of government and largely contributed to sub-standard private sector economic growth.

Posted by Dave Trabert on Sunday, March 18, 2012
A commentary in the Wichita Eagle by USD 259 school board member Connie Dietz attempts to blame Governor Brownback and the current legislature for school closings and is loaded with false information.

It is disingenuous at best to blame school closings on the current governor and legislature when the changes to school funding, which were prompted by a serious recession, began under a previous governor and legislature.

 And the overall impact of the changes has not been even close to those claimed by Ms. Dietz.  Neither state funding nor overall funding have been 'cut back to 1999 levels' and she knows it.  Ms. Dietz is only referencing a piece of state funding.  The truth, as provided by the Kansas Dept. of Education and Wichita financial reports, is that:

 - State support of public education in 1999 was $2.04 billion; this year it is expected to be $3.2 billion.

 - Total taxpayer support increased from $3.2 billion in 1999 to $5.7 billion this year.

 - KSDE online records for individual districts only go back to 2002 but show state aid per-pupil for Wichita was $4,812; last year it was $7,092.
 
- Total taxpayer aid to Wichita schools was $8,393 per-pupil in 2002; last year it was $13,069.

When governments talk about budget cuts, they are most often talking about reducing their plans to spend more rather than actually spending less money.  According to data provided by KSDE, the Wichita district has spent more money every single year.  The pace of the increase certainly slowed in the past few years but they are still spending more money every single year.

Even their current operating expenses have increased.  The first column below shows total spending for USD 259 from the Kansas Comparative Performance and Fiscal System; the second column shows current spending, with all Capital Outlay and Debt Service removed (all figures in millions):

2005   $422.4   $383.4
2006   $468.1   $429.7
2007   $527.1   $471.3
2008   $552.0   $507.6
2009   $573.9   $523.5
2010   $585.5   $524.3
2011   $603.8   $526.9

The recession certainly created a lot of unfortunate challenges for everyone but taxpayers and parents deserve honesty from elected officials, not political rhetoric and false information.
Posted by Dave Trabert on Friday, March 16, 2012

The Bureau of Labor Statistics annually revises prior year job numbers and the new 2011 numbers show that Kansas and many states actually had slightly more job growth than originally reported.

Each January BLS performs a final revision on all monthly jobs reports or as the BLS puts it:

This year the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) used special model adjustments to control for survey interval variations for all seasonally adjusted data. These special adjustments are designed to correct for variations in the number of weeks between reference periods in any given pair of months. This resulted in revisions to many seasonally adjusted series affecting data from 1990 forward.  Full details available here.

The numbers changed for each month and resulted in an increase of 15,600 private sector jobs on an average annual basis.  As a result, Kansas now officially recorded a 1.65% increase over 2010; previous reports showed an increase of 0.4%.  The revised numbers also show that Kansas has finally pulled ahead of 1998 employment levels.  Previous reports showed Kansas had 1.1% fewer private sector workers in 2011 than in 1998; the revised report now shows an increase of 0.4%.

Data for all states was revised but Kansas’ upward revisions also improved its competitive position.  Kansas’ previous 2011 growth rate of 0.4% had the state ranked #49, or the second worst in the nation.  The revised 2011 growth rate of 1.65% places Kansas at #23.  Among regional states, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado had stronger job growth; Missouri and Nebraska had gains but grew at a slightly smaller rate than did Kansas.

The improved numbers are encouraging but Kansas’ private sector employment remains 52,000 jobs (4.65%) below its 2008 peak.   


Posted by Dave Trabert on Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Have you noticed that some of the same people who say the State should spend its surplus balance have a completely opposite opinion about school districts?

Today’s story in the Topeka Capital-Journal about House Appropriations recommendations on school funding misstates what was actually proposed.  School funding would not be 'cut' in the sense that money is taken away.  As explained today in the Wichita Eagle, the Governor's budget proposed adding $29 million this year and the House Appropriations action is simply eliminating the proposed increase.

The rationale for not increasing funding is that districts already have the money in carryover cash reserves – state and local tax dollars provided in prior years that were not spent.  Legislation passed last year gives districts the authority to transfer up to $154 million to current operations this year and to date, only $24 million of that authority has been exercised.  Even if districts used the entire $154 million, they would still have about $700 million left over, plus another $837 million in Capital Outlay and Debt Service funds.

School districts' balances in their current operating funds have increased 90% over the last six years, going from $458 million to $868 million.  Those balances increased every single year, which means districts didn't spend all of their tax dollars...every single year.

All government entities need some degree of surplus balances but district balances are much larger than state balances.   And not just in total dollars.  The state's goal is to have the statutorily required ending balance equal to 7.5% of General Fund expenditures.  School districts' ending balances in their current operating funds (everything but capital and debt service) represented 11.7% of current expenditures in 2006 and increased to 16.0% by 2011.  The current reserve ratio is somewhere between 16.6% and 18.8%, depending upon which budget figures one uses from KSDE.  Carryover cash reserve balances by district are available on KansasOpenGov.org.

We agree that excess reserves should be used to fund current operations instead of taking more money from taxpayers.  Those who believe the State of Kansas should give some of it's relatively small surplus to school districts should be consistent and call for school districts to tap their own large reserves instead of asking taxpayers for more money.

Posted by James Franko on Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Last month, Wichita voters took to the ballot box to weigh in on whether the City of Wichita should provide government funded incentives for a new downtown hotel.  This vote reminded everyone that a debate, in Kansas and around the country, remains about the best way to create jobs and economic prosperity.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote after voters decided against this incentive package:

Local politicians like to get in bed with local business, and taxpayers are usually the losers. So three cheers for a voter revolt in Wichita, Kansas last week that shows such sweetheart deals can be defeated. 

Policy beliefs aside, some degree of incentives may be necessary as long as some companies expect them, but pragmatism also dictates that neither Wichita nor the State of Kansas can win an economic development war where the largest checkbook wins.  Fortunately, incentives aren’t the only way to compete and in fact may only be important to a small portion of potential employers.

Should we increase incentives?  What about lower taxes and less regulation?  Targeted government spending or investment? These are some of the important issues that will be addressed on 11 April at an economic development summit hosted by KPI.

National and Kansas experts will join at the WSU MetroPlex for a half-day of panel discussions and expert presentations. This free event is open to the public and you can register here. Breakfast and lunch will be served and you can view the full agenda below;

Eco-Devo Through Economic Competition - 11 April 2012

7:30 – 8:15 a.m.: Registration and breakfast

8:15 a.m.: Welcome
- Dave Trabert – President of Kansas Policy Institute

8:30 a.m.: Implications of "Location Matters: A Comparative Analysis of State Tax Costs on Business
- Joe Henchman - Vice President of Legal and State Projects at the Tax Foundation

9:00 a.m.: Shaping Government to Increase Competitiveness
- The Honorable Maurice McTigue - Vice President of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

9:45 a.m.: Break

10:00 a.m.: Panel Discussion - Different Perspectives on Competitiveness and Development
- Ron Wilson - Director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
- Jeremy Hill - Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University
- Art Hall, Ph.D. - Executive Director of the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas
- The Honorable Maurice McTigue, Vice President of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University
- Walter Berry - Chair, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
- Nick Jordan, Kansas Secretary of Revenue

11:45 a.m.: Break

12:00 p.m.: Lunch served

12:15 p.m.: A Perspective from Washington
- U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo
Posted by Dave Trabert on Monday, March 12, 2012
A KPI student achievement awareness campaign (an example from the Topeka Capital-Journal is here) has prompted a few people to question whether the ads are correct. The Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) also issued a press release full of blatantly false accusations about KPI and the campaign.

It’s understandable that people might think there is something wrong with the ads. Most people reasonably believe the descriptions listed in the ads – “reads grade-appropriate material with full comprehension” and “usually performs accurately on most grade-level tasks in Math” – are the definitions of Meets Standard or Proficient.

The truth, however, is that those are the Kansas definitions of Exceeds Standard. A student does not have to read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension or usually perform all grade-level Math tasks accurately to be considered Proficient by state standards. The ads accurately reflect the percentages of 11th grade students who perform at or above the listed performance descriptors. Here are their definitions for  Reading:

Meets Standard – when reading grade-appropriate narrative, expository, technical and persuasive text, a proficient student has satisfactory comprehension.

Exceeds Standard – when reading grade-appropriate narrative, expository, technical and persuasive text, an advanced student has full comprehension.

As we have traveled the state discussing education in public forums, we’ve found that parents and even some educators have been shocked to learn that Kansas has such low standards. (The U.S. Dept. of Education says Kansas has some of the lowest standards in the country.) An honest examination of all the facts on student achievement shows that a lot of changes are needed to help every student reach their full potential, but a false sense of high achievement is a tremendous barrier to change.

State assessment results are not the only indication that achievement is lower than most people understand. The U.S. Department of Education reports much lower proficiency levels and shows next to little progress over the last thirteen years. The ACT college-readiness measurement says only 28% of 2010 Kansas high school graduates scored high enough to be considered college-ready in English, Reading, Math and Science. KSDE says 21.1% of Kansas high school graduates who attend a Kansas university sign up voluntarily for remedial training. That all makes sense when you understand that KSDE tests show that only about half of 11th graders in Kansas have full comprehension of grade-appropriate material.


The KNEA press release deliberately misrepresents the ad content by implying that full comprehension of grade-appropriate material is the same as Proficient. KNEA may not want parents to know the truth but we’ve been sharing this information with legislators, parents and educators for nearly a year and KSDE has not denied the facts we include in the awareness campaign.

This is not about assessing blame or criticizing students and educators; we have no doubt that educators are doing their best within the confines of the current system. It’s about taking an honest look at student achievement and deciding whether the current system is producing acceptable results or whether some changes are needed. Our kids deserve nothing less.

[Editor's Note: KSDE released a revised report showing that 21.1% of Kansas high school graduates who attend a Kansas university sign up voluntarily for remedial training whereas the original report said 24.6%.]

Posted by James Franko on Friday, March 09, 2012
By now, hopefully you've seen an advertisement in your local paper about the student achievement levels of your area districts. If not, you can view an example of one from the Topeka Capital-Journal here. A version of this exact same ad is running in multiple papers around the state highlighting surrounding districts; you can find the numbers for your district's reading and math scores at www.KansasOpenGov.Org.

What seems to be drawing the most attention is that many Kansans understand student achievement to be higher than what we published. This is because we looked beyond the top-line definitions of student achievement (e.g., Meets Standard) and examine the underlying verbiage that supports it.

Right up front, we are using data directly from the Kansas Department of Education. As with all data at KansasOpenGov, it is from an official government source, in this case KSDE, and is publicly available (we just put it all in one place) or we filed the appropriate Kansas Open Records Act request.

The question we're asking Kansans to keep in mind as they digest the advertisement and this blog is - Are these levels of student achievement good enough?

For instance, the high school reading definition for Meets Standard, from KSDE, reads as “When independently reading grade-appropriate narrative, expository, technical, and persuasive text, a proficient student has satisfactory comprehension.” It is only when a student achieves “Exceeds Standard” status that they are expected to have “full comprehension.”

Let's look at what this means in real terms and use an example from the advertisement linked to above. In the ad, USD 330-Mission Valley is listed as having 50% of 11th grade students who read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension and 71% are usually accurate on all grade-level math tasks. Those numbers reflect the percentage of students who ranked as "Exceeds Standard" and "Exemplary" on the 2011 state exam in either category.

The confusion arises because often a school district or the state point to the number of student at or above grade-level to include those student who "Meets Standard.” Strictly using the state’s top-line definitions, 100% of 11th graders in Mission Valley meet or exceed the state standard in math and 93.3% at the same level on reading.

Remember, a student who “Meets Standard” doesn't have to fully understand his reading material or accurately complete all of his math problems.

So, the question remains, are these levels of achievement good enough?

Many Kansas students receive a fine education, but too many are being left behind. The only way we can have a conversation about how to move forward is to be honest with what our children are achieving. Let’s also remember that there appears to be no link between student achievement and K-12 spending. For instance, between 1998 and 2011, funding for public education in Kansas increased from $3.1 billion to $5.6 billion and Kansas test scores on the “gold standard” of achievement tests from the U.S. Department of Education are virtually unchanged.

We applaud the hard work of Kansas students and teachers but also think some are taking the easier route of looking for evidence to defend the status quo rather than taking an honest look at where we are and how we can get better.
Posted by James Franko on Wednesday, March 07, 2012
As we tour the state discussing K-12 education, the one constant theme is that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has been a millstone around the neck of the entire system.  Teachers, administrators, parents, board members, legislators, you name ‘em and people are in near-lockstep agreement that NCLB is, at best, rubbish and, at worst, an educational and constitutional train wreck.

Articulated in countless ways, the arguments against NCLB boil down to more bureaucratic meddling in the classroom interfering with student learning.  From states to teachers to students, the classroom experience is less about learning and more about meeting a national standard.

It should be no surprise, then, that many are starting to offer the same criticisms of the Common Core (CC) curriculum.  CC is being sold as voluntary, but it turning into yet another federal takeover of a state’s prerogative.

CC was originally envisioned as states deciding on their own to agree to basics of student curriculum and standards.  Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, what was originally envisioned has been polluted by an increasingly political education apparatus in Washington, D.C.

How are the supposedly voluntary CC being hijacked by the Feds?  Both with money and with the desire to get out from underneath that other oppressive, nationally mandated education protocol known as NCLB.

Kansas is like many states and continues to feel the pinch of a very tough economy.  In response, the financing of states priorities are under review.  No different with K-12 education and Race To The Top money being offered to states through the U.S. Department of Education.  Education Week’s blog said it best last March when describing the federal dictate to states on Race To The Top funding.

I'm sure you remember, because it set a lot of people's neck hairs on end, that President Obama recently proposed that Title I [Race To The Top] funding for disadvantaged students be tied to whether states have adopted the Common Core State Standards.

And I am also sure you know that in order to get the most bang for their buck in Race to the Top applications, states have to promise to adopt the common standards.

It is unrealistic to believe that states won’t belly up to the federal bar for this happy hour special.  Policy makers respond to the same incentives as do individuals and what is ceding a little K-12 control to the Feds in exchange for more money?  Nearly every other area of public policy is moving in that direction, so why not education?

Second, as states work to get out from underneath the widely-panned NCLB, they are being encouraged (much like the Corleone Family encouraged filmmakers to hire family members) to adopt CC.  Once again, the Education Week blog offers some insight into what is takes for a state to score a NCLB waiver.



 …a key requirement for states seeking a waiver is that they have adopted "college- and career-ready standards" and assessments. The standards don't have to be the [Common Core standards]. But if they're not, a state will have to certify, through its public higher education system, that its standards are tough enough that mastery of them will serve as a passport allowing students to skip remedial courses in college and go right into credit-bearing work.

That is a pretty powerful ONE-TWO combination for states to ignore, “Hey Kansas!  We’ve got money for you to spend on K-12 education and we’ll even let you off the hook from NCLB.  All you have to do is let us effectively run your schools from Washington.”

Which gets us back to where we started as the one common theme as we talk to people around Kansas – more federal, and Topeka, involvement in education does nothing to help Kansas students learn.  In fact, returning control to local school boards is at the heart of Governor Brownback’s K-12 finance plan.  Regardless of its other faults, the plan recognizes the imperative to put control in the hands of those closest to actual student learning.

Assurances that CC won’t turn into NCLB on steroids amount to a collective “trust us” from its proponents.  “Things weren’t perfect with the previous regulations, but we’re smarter now and have learned from our mistakes.  This time we’ll get it right,” is a common enough bureaucratic refrain as to be cliché.

Let’s stop pretending that CC is voluntary and call it what it is – an offer state can’t refuse.  

Proponents of the education status quo often turn to images of a dedicated teacher, toiling for hours with little pay to help Johnny learn his multiplication tables.  Teacher and student grinding out hour after hour to learn and succeed and it works because we all had a teacher who stuck around after class to help us get past that stumbling block and remember their dedication to us.  

How does more red tape and bureaucratic intrusion help that teacher get through to a struggling child?  It doesn’t and every teacher we’ve spoken with will be happy to tell you about how NCLB is driving them out of the classroom.  

CC is no different and further threatens to undermine the best parts of our educational system and institutionalize the worst.  

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